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Metrics, Moneyball and Slingshot SEO

by Jay Love

It doesn’t matter whether it’s reality TV, a sporting event or a business, your success is measured by keeping score in some manner. I have always been fascinated by the concept of various metrics and the effect tracking the proper metrics can have on not just winning or losing, but moving forward rather than backward with any endeavor. Can you imagine any of the above items without a scoreboard, financial statements or, in the case of reality TV, no one being kicked off the show each week? Boring might not be a strong enough word for those items devoid of metrics!

Perhaps it was my love of math and all of the statistics that could be driven by it or my immense childhood collection of baseball cards with their myriad numbers that kicked off this love affair. No matter what it was, I can honestly say that, for most of my 58 years, I have fueled this preoccupation in a wide variety of ways. Please allow me to hone in on a few examples to illustrate my point and hopefully stir up a few thought-provoking concepts.

The recently released Brad Pitt movie “Moneyball” is based on a book published back in 2003. I devoured that book in just a few days, making notes on many of the pages. At the time, I was coaching a Little League team which had just finished a not so successful season as far as wins or losses. (However, in the area of shaping character we might not have done too bad … )

Real Life Lesson

Most of my players were not yet 12 years of age, so I knew they would be back on the team the following year. Returning veterans were a cause for optimism for me and my assistant coach, but I was even more excited by the idea of introducing a few key metrics based upon the lessons I read in Moneyball. I figured if it worked for the major leagues then some aspect would be good for the Little League.

I read through the previous year’s scorebooks and noticed the scoring often was done in bunches. The more bunches, the greater the chance of a success or a win. I knew the kids and their parents would only be able to focus on a couple of key metrics. Based on those two thoughts, we focused on two metrics. They were “on-base percentage” and “number of bases touched per game” for each player. The young players quickly adopted both stats and truly had fun with them.

It did not matter how you safely reached first base. Whether it was a hit, a walk, hit by pitch, an error or even a fielder’s choice, it did not matter; if you were on base it was a success. Once we had the players on base, we kicked in our second metric which was running on anything and everything until the other team could prove they could throw us out. In some cases, our games literally became track meets and, boy, did the kids have fun!

Recently, I tracked down a couple of the little newsletters I had created for the kids during that nearly perfect season. Some of the percentages were off the charts. Perhaps the most fun was watching 11- and 12-year-olds spout the statistics to each other. I have a signed baseball in my office from those kids, which never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Business Metrics

Let’s fast forward to the use of metrics at Slingshot SEO. In my first gathering of our leadership team, I asked each of them if they could tell me four to five of the most important areas they should measure to ensure success in their department. My guess was that this might come naturally since they regularly observe the success of our clients as measured in metrics. A major portion of our effort in every client campaign is the movement up the ladder of organic search rankings for our clients’ chosen keywords and phrases. We truly celebrate these metrics every time we achieve Page One rankings and, in particular, the coveted No. 1 spot!

From this challenge, every individual on the leadership team fashioned a scorecard of key metrics for their departments. The scorecards illustrated these key metrics in “stoplight” fashion with green indicating a metric at plan or above, yellow for slightly behind plan and red for more than 10 percent behind plan. (With our lofty goals, there were plenty of colors represented!)
Now everyone at Slingshot SEO knows what is critical to measure and just exactly how we are doing. Not a bad idea for any organization!

We tied all of the above items together during the opening week of the movie “Moneyball.” There is a theater right next door to our office that just happened to be playing a 5:15 p.m. matinee. So I quickly suggested we treat every team member to a ticket to the movie. More than half of the company was able to go and watch the metrics come to life . . . (Pass the popcorn please! )

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